Alice, Alice - where the heck is Alice?

Alice in Wonderland 3D (PG) Director Tim Burton Starring Mia Wasikowska, Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Anne Hathaway, Crispin Glover, Matt Lucas 108 mins Two star rating BY MICHAEL JOYCE Though he works in a rather a narrow range ( you can have it

Alice in Wonderland

3D (PG)

Director Tim Burton

Starring Mia Wasikowska, Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Anne Hathaway, Crispin Glover, Matt Lucas


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108 mins

Two star rating

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BY MICHAEL JOYCE

Though he works in a rather a narrow range ("you can have it any colour you want; as long as it's dark and gothic"), Tim Burton is something of a visionary and the idea of him doing Lewis Carroll seemed to offer up limitless creative opportunities. But turning it into a Narnia movie would not have been my preferred choice.

Carroll's meandering whimsy is replaced by a tale of destiny and myth as a figure from a British period setting enters a fantasy land and is then revealed as the preordained saviour in a struggle against a tyrannical monarch.

Of course, you have to do something with Alice, because you can't just do Alice - Carroll offers up little in the way of tools to engage in the eternal struggle to get people into multiplexes.

Burton's strategy is to make it a sequel, fixing on an adult Alice who always believed her original trip down the rabbit hole had been a bad childhood dream.

The grown-up version of a childhood hero, returning to the enchanted land of the original story - it's a 21st century Hook!

I'm sure Alice will be received much more warmly than Spielberg's forgotten Peter Pan folly.

The colours and look will captivate and the performances and voiceover artists (Stephen Fry, Alan Rickman, Paul Whitehouse, etc) are generally engaging.

Wasikowska is a perfect Alice in the above ground scenes when she is centre stage though rather squeezed out when she is underground. Helena Bonham Carter is tremendous as an hourglass-shaped Red Queen and Matt Lucas makes a lovely Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee.

Johnny Depp's Mad Hatter is more problematic. This is the seventh instalment of his generally productive collaboration with Burton. But if you didn't like his Michael Jackson-inflected Willy Wonka, his Mad Hatter is likely to be a major irritant. It combines the look of a rejected Visage album cover and the personality of Covent Garden's most aggravating street performer.

The film has the misfortune to be the first major post-Avatar 3D release. And, without the benefit of Cameron's costly and time-consuming perfectionism, this 3D lark (particularly when it comes via the underwhelming medium of Disney Digital 2.5D) looks a lot like a scam, getting audiences to pay more for an innovation whose primary benefit is foiling piracy.

I think the eye strain from those glasses contributed to me being rather cranky and unforgiving about the film.

People seemed to enjoy it. But you don't have to be a Carroll purist to think that maybe these timeless characters deserve better than being shunted around to fit into a pat commercial a-hero-will-rise narrative? It's like turning Waiting For Godot into a mismatched buddy cop movie.

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